Results tagged ‘ Nick Hagadone ’

“It’s Spring Training.”

Talbot2.jpgI know how some die-hard fans can get at this point in Spring Training.

We’re about midway through camp, so it seems like a good time to study the box scores and see what jumps out. If somebody isn’t hitting well, or so and so is getting lit up on the mound, panic buttons start getting pushed.

I am here to once again talk you off the ledge. It is only Spring Training. Don’t believe me? Take it from Indians manager Manny Acta then…

“It’s Spring Training,” Acta said.

See?

Do you feel better now?

No? That 17.55 ERA for Mitch Talbot is still eating at you? How about we turn the mic over to Mr. Acta again…

“It is Spring Training,” Acta repeated, “and he’s got a spot on the club and he’s just getting himself ready.”

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get one thing clear. If Talbot were fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation, he might be in trouble. But that’s not his situation. He won 10 games a year ago as a rookie for a team that lost 93. So Acta believes Talbot has earned the right to open this season as one of the five starters.

That said, it is certainly worth pointing out that Talbot is out of player options. What that means is the right-hander would need to be exposed to waivers — up for grabs by other pitching-starved clubs — before he could be sent to the Minor Leagues. Cleveland is not going to mess with that scenario. It needs all the depth it can get.

The other thing to keep in mind is a player’s mind-set when he knows he has a spot guaranteed on the Opening Day roster. Spring Training is no longer a time to come out fighting. It is suddenly a time to work on things. Don’t like how that pitch is moving? Keep throwing it until you get it right — no matter the results.

So, yes, Talbot has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 15 hits, including three home runs, in just 6 2/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts. But he will be on the 2011 Cleveland Indians Opening Day roster whether that pitching line makes you panic or not. He’ll likely have three more starts to sort out his current flaws.

And by saying all of this, I am certainly not saying that Acta and the rest of the Indians brass would not like to see better results. Of course they would.

“Obviously, we want to see him throw more strikes,” Acta said. “That’s what he’s working on.”

For Acta, the most discouraging development in all of this — Talbot isn’t alone in this, either — is the fact that a few pitchers have logged fewer innings that originally planned. On Friday, Talbot was originally down to pitch four frames against the Mariners, but his rough three-inning showing forced the Tribe to cut his outing short.

That’s “the only thing that bothers me a little bit about these type of outings,” Acta said.

Other notes from Friday…

  • The roster received its first trimming on Friday morning, when Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone, Bryce Stowell, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jared Goedert, Corey Kluber, Hector Rondon and Chun Chen each cleaned out their lockers. The Indians now have 54 players in camp. There are 29 cuts to go.
  • General manager Chris Antonetti raved about Pomeranz’s poise on the mound and said it was made clear that the young lefty’s fastball “can play” on the big league stage. Antonetti said Pomeranz will likely open the year with Class A Kinston. Pom Wonderful’s curveball has looked sharp, so the goal this season is to further develop his changeup.
  • Antonetti noted that Hagadone is still being stretched out as a starter, but the organization has yet to determine whether he will spend the bulk of this season in a rotation or working out of a bullpen. The GM said the team will make a decision on Hagadone’s role later in camp. Antonetti was impressed with Hagadone’s fastball command and his “above-average” breaking ball.
  • Stowell had some serious command issues early on this spring, but Antonetti said there was nothing physically wrong with the hard-throwing righty. Command is actually the biggest area that Stowell needs to developn. The GM noted that Stowell “didn’t demonstrate that arm strength in Spring Training that he’ll have during the course of the season, but that’s not really a concern.”
  • First baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson arrived in camp on Friday. He also had stitches removed from his surgically-repaired (four times) right wrist in the morning. He said there is no timetable for his return, but Antonetti noted that the goal is to hopefully have Johnson in Minor League games some time in April. Right now, Johnson said he will work toward regaining his range of motion and “getting the stiffness out” of the wrist.
  • Johnson’s in camp in a Minor League deal. If he makes the Major League roster, his salary jumps to $750K. The Indians have a $2.75 million club option for 2012, but only if Johnson is selected to the Major League roster. Johnson’s deal also has another $1.75 million in incentives for the 2012 season.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes (elbow soreness) completed a 31-pitch live batting practice session on Friday morning. In all, including his time in the bullpen, Reyes estimated he threw around 60 pitches. He threw all of his pitches and reported no issues. Acta said Reyes will throw a bullpen session Sunday with the goal of appearing in his first spring game on Tuesday.
  • It remains to be seen if the Indians have enough time to stretch Reyes out in time for Opening Day. It just doesn’t seem possible, though. Said Antonetti: It’s hard to say. With where we are in the calendar, it would be really close at this point. So I’m not sure from a volume standpoint how quickly we could progress him to five or six innings.”
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) was at the plate during Reyes’ live BP session. He took 10 swings, fouling off four, missing two, sending one off the wall in left and another up the middle on the ground. Sizemore also took part in regular batting practice prior to the session with Reyes.
  • Acta continued to rave about how Sizemore has looked swinging a bat. Cleveland is simply waiting for Sizemore to get up to speed — pun intended — with his running. If everything goes according to plan, Sizemore will likely begin running bases on Sunday. It is possible that playing in games could come next week.
  • Outfielder Chad Huffman had been out with a strained right hamstring, but he made it back into a game on Friday against the Mariners. That’s a good thing, because Huffman is trying to work his way into the picture as a serious contender for an Opening Day roster spot. Given the makeup of the roster, he is likely up against Shelley Duncan for a corner outfield/first base/right-handed DH role off the bench.
  • Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin made his Cactus League debut for the Indians in the fourth inning of Friday’s game against Seattle. He didn’t allow any hits in his lone inning of work, but a walk came back to bite him. Durbin walked Dustin Ackley, who later came around to score on a sacrifice fly. Ain’t that always the way.
  • Two more small items before I go. 1) The Indians signed Carlos Santana, Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez to contracts for the 2011 season. Every 40-man roster player is under contract for this year now. 2) Outfielder Jordan Brown will not be with the team this weekend. He is attending to a family situation.

In closing, to stick with the theme of today’s blog lead, this is for all the fans drooling over themselves in light of prospect Lonnie Chisenhall’s .478 spring batting average and demanding he be promoted now. A couple days ago, Chisenhall showed great maturity in saying, “It’s only 20 at-bats.” He knows it’s only Spring Training, too.

Here’s what Antonetti had to say about it today: “We’ve been very encouraged by what Lonnie’s done in camp. But, we try to be mindful of a guy’s history coming in, and the opinions of our scouting and player development people based upon their entire body of work with him, and not just evaluate it off 25 Major League Spring Training at-bats.”

Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

Getting up to [game] speed

The Indians played some baseball today. At 10:45 local time, Jeanmar Gomez let loose a strike against Jason Donald for the first unofficial pitch of the 2011 season. The Tribe held its first intrasquad game of the spring and played under blue skies and the Arizona sun for four innings.

Gomez got the starting nod for Smitty’s American Racers (coached by third base coach Steve Smith) and Justin Masterson took the ball for Sarby’s Sour-Balls (coached by Triple-A manager Mike Sarbaugh). The Racers won, 3-2, with Donald leading the way with a single, triple and one run scored, plus a nice barehanded play at third base.

“We’re undefeated,” Indians manager Manny Acta declared.

“Actually, you’re 1-1,” I quickly corrected.

Intrasquad games are nice, because it’s a pleasant change of pace from all the bullpen sessions and workout drills. For the team, it gives them a chance to simulate game speed shortly before the Cactus League slate opens up. Typically, pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this point, but the Tribe pounded out five extra base hits, including two triples.

Acta was impressed with what he saw from the lineup. He especially liked seeing guys taking extra bases and moving runners. That’s something he’s been emphasizing this spring. In the second inning, Matt LaPorta stretched a single into a double with some aggressive baserunning, too. It was exactly the type of thing Acta hopes to see more often this year.

“We got in the middle of the pack last year in our baserunning,” Acta said. “Our goal is to continue to get better and push, push, push until we can put some pressure on other people. We just want to be aggressive and smart.”

Notes from Thursday…

  • I had a lovely shot of Goodyear Ballpark that I was going to post here, but the blog is having some issues with allowing me to upload photos. So, if you want to be reminded of what baseball looks like, you’ll have to check out my Twitter feed or go to the yfrog page with the photos. Links are at the bottom of this post.
  • As you may have noticed, I was absent yesterday. Castrovince was in camp and he did a lovely blog post to wrap up Wednesday’s events. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez also pinch hit for me and wrote some articles for Indians.com. See that? It takes two reporters to do in one day what I do alone. [pats self on back]
  • So what did I do with my rare day off? I headed into Estrella Mountain Park and did 11+ miles of trail running/hiking. I felt like I was the only person on the face of the earth running out there in the desert terrain. It was a great day and being deep into the hills forced me to actually take a breather from the daily grind

Oh, you wanted actual baseball notes?

  • Acta walked away very impressed with the three big lefties — Nick Hagadone, Kevlin De La Cruz and Drew Pomeranz — who pitched the final stages of Thursday’s intrasquad game. When asked if he’d ever seen De La Cruz do a backflip, though, you should’ve seen Acta’s eyes widen. Told that the 6-foot-5 De La Cruz did just that early in camp before a workout, Acta smiled wide and said, “Really? He better not do another one.” But you could tell Acta wanted to see it for himself, too.
  • As for Pomeranz, Acta said: “[He] has that mound presence out there. It gives you the impression that nobody is going to hit him. He just has the look out there, that very confident look.” Pomeranz struck out one and walked one in one inning. The lefty noted that he was hitting around 92-95 on his fastball in instrux in October and he also used that time to focus on a changeup he’s been fine-tuning.
  • Donald made a fantastic play at third, bare-handing a ball and making a strong throw for a big out in the second inning. Acta said it will be more important to see how Donald handles the routine plays, though. Plays like Thursday’s are more about instincts and reaction. “That’s a play you see once a month,” Acta said. “We need to see the plays he’ll see every week.”
  • Donald noted that he traveled to San Diego in the offseason and worked with Steve Smith in some one-on-one sessions to prepare for the move to third. Donald said he has also been discussing positioning and other techniques with Travis Fryman here in camp. During BP, Donald is often at third to track balls in the zone and off the bat as well.
  • Gomez worked one clean inning and David Huff was roughed up a little in his inning. Both are competing for the fifth spot. Acta was asked how their respective outings might affect the fifth starter’s race. The manager just laughed. One-inning intrasquad outings do not influence a whole lot.
  • Jack Hannahan is in camp as a third baseman, but he’s been getting plenty of reps at short this week. He’s been taking grounders there and he started at short during Thursday’s game. Acta said Hannahan can also play first and second, if needed, and he could be in the mix for a utility job off the bench (similar to Adam Everett).
  • There is a report out there indicating that Grady Sizemore is likely moving to left field whenever he returns to the lineup. Letting you know that I have not heard that here in camp. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they believe center would actually be better on his legs due to having more room to decelerate when running. The corners can be harder on a player’s legs due to more plays at the wall and more abrupt stopping. So far, everyone has said Sizemore is in the plans for center. If I hear anything different, I will let you know.
  • Friday’s intrasquad game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. local time on Field 1 at the Indians complex — not at Goodyear Ballpark. Pitchers slated to appear: Carrasco, Talbot, Judy, Herrmann, Laffey, Lewis, Pino, Reyes, Sipp, Todd, McAllister, Martinez, Stowell, Pestano

That’s all for today…

Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

 

 

Peering into the future

Pomeranz2.jpgDrew Pomeranz was firing baseballs with his left hand and Alex White was doing the same with his right.

They were doing so next to one another on a row of mounds at the Indians player development complex on Thursday morning. The moment was not lost on Indians manager Manny Acta.

Especially considering pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryce Stowell were also in this particular group.

“That was fun,” Acta said with a smile. “I don’t know how they were able to put that group together, but it was beautiful to see those four guys. I was just talking to some of our coaches and I said, ‘This is it. This is the next wave right here.’ It’s exciting.”

Pomeranz (pictured to the left) was the Tribe’s top pick in the 2010 Draft. White was the same the year before. Hagadone was one of the prospects reeled in in the Victor Martinez trade with Boston and Stowell is an up-and-coming relief prospect who could see the bigs this year.

Watching them work on Thursday during the team’s first official workout of the spring was special for Acta.

“Alex White is knocking the door to being a very good pitcher up here,” said the manager, “and Pomeranz is going to be an impact guy. Hagadone, everybody knows how well he was thought of in the Boston system and in our system. Bryce Stowell has one of those power arms that you need in the American League.

“I know that there were no hitters standing up there, but those guys are going to be able to get guys out.”

White, 22 features three fastballs — four-seam, two-seam, cutter — along with a slider and a split. He said his focus for this spring and this season is to become more consistent and trusting with his offspeed pitches. White appears set to head to Triple-A with the possibility of seeing the Major Leagues later this summer.

“There’s a lot of things [to work on],” White said. “Consistency would be the biggest one. Consistency in my delivery and in my offspeed pitches. There’d be times where I had great offspeed pitches one night and there’d be times that I didn’t. I just want that consistency of having good stuff every time I go out.”

Pomeranz, also 22 years old, is listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.

“He’s a big boy,” Acta said.

Pomeranz is the impact lefty that the Indians lack in their current rotation. He features a plus curve, four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and a changeup. He’s on a similar path as White was when he was Drafted. So expect Pomeranz to open with a Class A affiliate with the goal of possibly reaching as high as Double-A this year.

“I had my meeting with the coaches the other day,” Pomeranz said, “and they just talked about getting experience and learning stuff from all the guys [here in big league camp]. Obviously, a lot of these guys are successful people because they’re in the big leagues. Basically, I’m just being a student of the game here.”

Notes  from Thursday…

  • Acta1b.jpgAs things currently stand, the Indians could open with five right-handed pitchers in their rotation. Two lefty candidates for the fifth spot are David Huff and Aaron Laffey. Asked if in a perfect world he’d like to have a lefty in the rotation, Acta quipped, “In a perfect world, I would take five Roy Halladays.” So I asked, “What about three Docs and two CCs?” Acta laughed and replied, “Five Docs.”
  • Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) took part in some early batting practice on Thursday. Throwing to Sizemore? Indians media relations director Bart Swain. With his last swing of the session, Sizemore homered to the opposite field. Bart’s cutter needs a little more fine-tuning.
  • Acta said that first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. takes special care in matching pitchers with certain catchers during bullpen sessions during Spring Training. “It’s strategic,” Acta said. That’s why on Thursday, for example, Carlos Santana, and not someone like Minor League catcher Chun Chen, was behind the plate for White (a possible big leaguer this year).
  • Speaking of Chen, both GM Chris Antonetti and Acta have raved about him as a prospect. Beyond getting working on his defense behind the plate, though, Chen also needs to work on his English. “That’s very important for a catcher,” Acta said. Chen, a native of Taiwan, actually knows more Spanish than English right now.
  • Right now, the general thought is that the Indians rotation will be 1. Fausto Carmona, 2. Justin Masterson, 3. Mitch Talbot and 4. Carlos Carrasco, followed by the winner of the fifth starter competition. That said, Acta noted that the specific order behind Carmona “doesn’t matter” right now. So, come Opening Day, it’s not set in stone that it will be Masterson, Talbot and Carrasco occupying the Nos. 2-4 spots in that order.
  • Speaking of Carmona and Masterson, Acta foresees great things for them in 2011 (what else would you expect him to say, really?). He said he feels Carmona’s 2010 showing was nearly as impressive as his ’07 performance considering the offensive support. Acta also said he feels Masterson is on the cusp of a breakout year.
  • Acta has been singing and tweeting the praises of right-hander Carlos Carrasco ever since the manager arrived to Arizona. That did not change on Thursday, when the manager had this to say about the young starter: “He has the stuff to be one of the best guys in the American League, period.”
  • It seems like every year, just about every team holds a competition for the backup catching job during Spring Training. The Indians are no different this year. Acta made it clear that Lou Marson (the only rostered backup candidate) did not have a leg up on the other catchers in camp. Acta went as far as to say that Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca were all in the mix for the backup role.
  • If Huff is going to win the fifth starter’s job, it sounds like he might have to have a fantastic spring showing. Acta said the Indians “aren’t giving up” on Huff (11-8 for the Tribe in ’09 and then 2-11 in ’10), but later in the discussion about the lefty, the manager added, “Peoples’ moods change with results. We need to see results.”

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Photo of the day:

Choo.jpg

Big League Choo

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Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Pitchers, catchers & tweeters report

PerezBullpen2.jpgThat there on the right is Indians closer Chris Perez, working through a bullpen session on Tuesday morning at the player development complex here in Goodyear.

If we’re to believe @PureRage_Perez, not pictured here are all the people fleeing in terror before this fastball was unleashed. Rumor has it no one was willing to catch Perez and now the Indians are faced with a hefty repair bill after the closer’s heaters ripped apart the chain-link fence behind home plate.

Ah, Twitter.

It’s been a great tool for members of the media to deliver news and interact with readers. It’s also been a good tool for athletes to interact with fans. Twitter has its obvious risks, but it has also proven quite useful. That’s one reason why the Indians are embracing the social-networking site.

Manager Manny Acta joined recently under the handle @Mactriber_11 and you can find players like Perez (@ChrisPerez54), Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) and Matt LaPorta (@Gator4God) on there as well. The Tribe also has prospects Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone and Zach McAllister on the site.

Could Indians GM Chris Antonetti be next?

“I think soon,” he said with a grin on Tuesday. “It’s part of an organizational initiative.”

When we started joking about Antonetti’s policy on not commenting on rumors or discussing contract talks before deals are official, the GM laughed and quipped, “I can do that. I’ll tweet ‘no comment.’”

If he does sign up, Antonetti would become the first active Major League general manager on Twitter.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • Predictably, Antonetti wouldn’t budge on his policy when we asked him if there was any update on the Orlando Cabrera situation. The GM did offer this: “I think you guys have accurately reported to date. I’ll leave it at that.” So, I’ll report here that Cabrera still needs to pass a physical and the Indians will likely announce his 1-year, Major League contract later this week.
  • Also likely to come later this week? News that the Indians are bringing Kenny Lofton in as a guest instructor. He’ll be in camp this spring to help out as a baserunning and outfield coach. Details of his role are still being worked out, but Lofton could have an expanded role during the regular season, assisting with community initiatives, for example.
  • On the starting pitching front, the Indians do not appear close to reeling in any additional help. Talks appear to have stalled with free-agents Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood. Said Antonetti: “We’re planning to proceed with the group that we have in camp. If an opportunity presents itself as we’re in camp, we’ll certainly look at it. But right now our expectations are that we’ll go with the group that we have.”
  • HuffCatch.jpgManager Manny Acta rattled off some names when asked about the candidates for the fifth job, citing David Huff (playing catch in the photo to the right), Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Anthony Reyes and “to an extent” Aaron Laffey. Acta said Laffey will get some innings early in camp and the Indians will work to quickly determine whether he will prepare as a starter or long reliever. The Tribe will not move him back and forth this season.
  • Beyond working to add Lofton, the Indians announced Tuesday that they hired Eduardo Perez and Jason Bere as special assistants to baseball operations. They will help out on the field this spring and will continue to assist at both the Major and Minor League levels this season. Perez will also continue in his role as an analyst with ESPN.
  • Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona on Tuesday and Acta said everyone is accounted for. Physicals for pitchers and catchers take place Wednesday with the first official workout slated for Thursday. Also on Wednesday, Acta and Antonetti will meet with each pitcher and catcher individually to discuss expectations for spring and the coming season.
  • Both Acta and Antonetti said they have been thrilled with the progress of Grady Sizemore (left knee). Said the GM: “First and foremost, it’s great to see him on the field. And in talking with him, he feels a comfort level swinging the bat and throwing that he didn’t have before with his knee.” Antonetti said, even before Sizemore went on the DL or had surgery, he was having problems putting weight on his back leg while hitting. That has not been an issue so far this spring.
  • As far as Sizemore’s running program goes, Acta said the plan is to “accelerate” the running during the first week of March. That would likely mean baserunning drills and full participation in outfield work and agility exercises. Sizemore noted on Monday that he hopes to begin testing his knee with agility work later this week or early next week.
  • Acta did not bite when asked if Sizemore would automatically be the leadoff man whenever he returns to the lineup. Said the skipper: “He’s going to be in the lineup. It’s a good question and everybody wants to know, but right now we’re trying to get this guy healthy. Then, we’ll give you your material later. It’s just that it’s more than him involved in the situation.” Fair enough.

Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Think warm thoughts

jacobs_field_snow_01.jpgCall me crazy, but I enjoy shoveling snow… which means I’ve been having a whole lot of fun over the past two days.

Maybe it’s because I missed out on all the shoveling over the last five years living in Toronto. No matter how high the piles got, life in a downtown condo did not require any outdoor maintenance on my part.

I’m also fortunate now to be living in Avon Lake, where we don’t get hammered with the real heavy stuff. I’ve had to shovel the driveway and sidewalks three times in the past 24 hours, so I can only imagine how much worse it is to the south and east of me. May God help you all as you try to bury yourself out of this latest snow storm.

Seemed to be good timing then when MLB announced the official Spring Training workout dates as the snow began to fall around Cleveland. For your Indians, the pitchers and catchers will begin workouts on Feb. 17 and the first full squad workout will be on Feb. 20. We’re almost a month away.

Today, the Tribe also unveiled the list of players who will be taking part in this year’s Winter Development Program. Those heading to Cleveland for the start of the two-week program will be outfielders Ezequiel Carrera and Chad Huffman; left-handers Nick Hagadone and Matt Packer; right-handers Corey Kluber, Chen-Chang Lee, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Bryce Stowell and Alex White; and infielders Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps.

The program runs from Jan. 17-22 in Cleveland and then Jan. 23-29 in Goodyear, Ariz. The WDP includes classroom sessions with various coaches, conditioning drills, fundamental work, guest speakers and on-field activities. The players will also take part in community and charitable events while in Cleveland. The program is now in its 16th year after being orginally developed by Mark Shapiro, now the team president.

Obviously, Chisenhall, Kipnis and White will garner much of the attention this year. That said, there’s a considerable cast of players taking part who could be in the mix for jobs with the Tribe come Opening Day. Kipnis could be a candidate at second base, Phelps and Goedert might make a push for third, and Pestano and Stowell are potential bullpen options. Before the 2011 season is up, you might see plenty of these guys getting stints in The Show.

Other items on indians.com this week…

1. A feature on new GM Chris Antonetti

2. Cleveland unveils plans for “Tribe on Tour”

3. The latest Indians Inbox

4. Castrovince weighs in on recent Tribe trades

5. Indians rework season ticket prices

and…

6. Kearns added to roster; Brown designated  

One last thing.

Not sure how many of my new Indians Nation followers out there are runners. My leftover Toronto followers know that one of my “off-field” hobbies is running — training for marathons, specifically. I’ve run five full marathons dating back to October 2008 (Chicago in ’08 and ’09, Disney World in ’09, and Tampa and Philly in ’10). Right now, I’m planning on running the Cleveland full in May for my sixth. I’ve also challenged myself to run every day in 2011, no excuses. So far, so good (even out in the snow). For anyone interested in following my running exploits, I have a Twitter account dedicated to my ongoing training: @26point2. If that sounds horribly boring, forget I brought it up!

Stay tuned for more…

~JB

Notes and quotes

BallinNet.jpgYikes, that blog title isn’t clever at all. As a Seinfeld fan, I’d love to use “Excruciating minutiae” but I can’t step on Castroturf’s, um, well, turf. So I’m opening it up to the floor for suggestions. What should I call these posts when I dive headfirst into a bunch of Tribe-related topics covered today? Let’s here what you’ve got. Otherwise, I’ll have to let my utilitze my corny sense of humor.

  • First off, before I delve into anything else, my 14-month old son learned how to say “baseball” today. Well, OK, it sounds more like “bah-bawl”, but we’ve got to start somewhere. I just finished piecing together my new office in my new Ohio home and on the walls are framed black and white photos I’ve taken over the years. There is one that he really likes, a photo I took in Spring Training of a home run ball hanging in the netting of a fence (above). He points at it and starts saying “Bah-bawl!” I’m one proud papa.
  • Us Tribe scribes spoke with GM Chris Antonetti tonight about Shin-Soo Choo’s path to gold (and military exemption), among other topics. The Indians have yet to hear from the Korean Baseball Office concerning the status of Choo’s military requirement, but have no fear, the Indians fully expect the outfielder to be exempted from the 30-month obligation. Antonetti said he hopes to know officially in the next 12-24 hours.
  • As for Choo’s performance (.571, 3 HR, 11 RBIs in 5 games), Antonetti was more than impressed. “It’s hard to imagine a more presure-filled environment than playing under the circumstances Choo was playing in,” Antonetti said. “It’s certainly a great accomplishment for him and Team Korea to win the gold medal at a very competitive tournament and to perform exceptionally well in helping lead Team Korea to the gold.”
  • Now, about that contract extension. Well, predictably, Antonetti did not go into much detail about any possible ongoing talks with agent Scott Boras about a long-term deal with Choo. Antonetti was quick to remind that Choo (arbitration eligible this winter) is controllable for the next three years. That said, the GM said he plans on continuing dialogue with Boras at some point this winter.
  • Friday marked the final day for clubs to add players to their 40-man roster in preparation for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Indians had five vacant spots and they used every last one of them. Added to the roster were infielder Jared Goedert, left-hander Nick Hagadone, right-hander Josh Judy, righty Corey Kluber and righty Zach McAllister.
  • One notable player left unprotected is right-hander Adam Miller. The former first-round pick has logged an inning in the past two years and is coming back from multiple finger operations. Miller is trying to make a comeback as a reliever and Antonetti said the pitcher hit around 90-91 in a game appearance in Instructional League. In that outing, Miller threw both fastballs and sliders. Until we get to spring, and the Indians can closely monitor Miller’s progress, his status for 2011 remains an unknown.
  • Others of note who are eligible for the Rule 5 from Cleveland’s system? Minor Leaguer Josh Rodriguez, who has the ability to man multiple infield and outfield positions. Other notables include Beau Mills, Matt McBride, Jerad Head, Carlton Smith and Juan Diaz. I have my doubts about any of the players listed being taken in the Draft by another club.
  • Antonetti said he has some productive talks at the GM Meetings earlier this week with rival GMs, “laying the groundwork” to see if there might be potential fits for trades. Given Cleveland’s financial situation, trades seem like a more likely route for making additions. That, or some late-offseason signings that won’t break the bank. Third base and starting pitching remain the top two priorities.
  • As for that possible addition to the rotation, Antonetti said reliability is the main trait the Tribe is seeking. Said the GM: “We have depth. We have options. There are any number of guys, we can probably go eight or nine or 10 deep, that could pitch at the Major League level for us next year. I think the one thing we lack in our rotation is some reliability. It’s a very young rotation. I think our oldest starter next year is 27 and we have two guys in Carmona and Masterson who have thrown over 180 innings in a season. So while it’s a very talented group, there’s not a lot of certainty with it and I think that’s one of the things we would look to potentially address this offseason if we could.”
  • Beyond that and potentially bringing in a new third baseman? Antonetti said adding another catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder are other areas possibly in need of addressing. Said the GM: “There are a couple of other areas where we could add depth. Obviously, we have two very good catchers in Carlos Santana and Lou Marson, but we could look certainly complement that area as well. And, an extra outfielder, preferably a right-handed bat.”

With that, I’m signing off and will be heading to Philly in the morning. I’m taking part in the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. It’ll be my fifth full marathon (Chicago 2008-09, Disney ’09 and Tampa ’10). The move to Ohio fell right in the thick of my training, so the program became a bit sporadic for a while. Not sure I’ll beat the 3:43 I put up in Tampa in February, but I’ll make it over that finish line one way or another.

–JB

Its gold, Jerry! Gold!

Choo_Korea2.jpgShin-Soo Choo probably would’ve found a way out of his military service one way or another. But there was one sure-fire way to earn exemption: gold.

Well, consider that done.

On Friday, South Korea rode the S.S. Choo to a gold medal at the 16th annual Asian Games being held in China. The Koreans defeated the defending champs from Taiwan 9-3 and earned military exemption in the process.

According to Korean military regulations, athletes who capture gold at the Asian Games are exempt from 30 months of military conscription. The requirement is for all able-bodied men under 30 years of age.

Choo is 28 and entering his prime and he can now do so without the threat of military hanging over him. Had South Korea fallen short, Choo might’ve stayed in the U.S., applied for citizenship, but it would’ve made going home a big issue.

Choo used his bat to swing his way out of the obligation legitimately. All he did in the five wins for the South Koreans was hit .571 (8-14) with three homers, six walks, eight runs scored and 11 RBIs. In the gold medal game, he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

Now maybe the focus can shift to trying to sign Choo — a Scott Boras client — to a long-term extension. The Indians obviously have their financial limitations, but wrapping Choo up is certainly a priority for the club. With those 30 months of military service off the table, however, the Tribe can proceed with more clarity.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Baseball America revealed its Top 10 Indians prospects earlier this week. The list is as follows: 1. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, 2. RHP Alex White, 3. 2B Jason Kipnis, 4. LHP Drew Pomeranz, 5. OF Nick Weglarz, 6. RHP Jason Knapp, 7. OF Levon Washington, 8. SS Tony Wolters, 9. RHP Joe Gardner, 10. LHP Nick Hagadone

GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT…

Opening Day tickets (April 1 vs. White Sox) go on sale Monday at 2 pm ET. You can purchase them at indians.com, Indians Team Shops, 1-866-48-TRIBE and at Ticket Master Ticket Center locations. Single-game tickets for the entire 81-game home slate will go on sale at 10 am ET on Feb. 28.

–JB

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